A workshop on ‘Literature, Heritage and Society’ is held in Cairo as part of Prof. Caroline Rooney’s AHRC Project

An ‘Egypt’s Living Past’ workshop on ‘Literature, Heritage and Society’ was mounted at Beit es-Sinaari (the restored house that was once Napoleon’s headquarters in Cairo) on February 24. The workshop covered the role of literature in the transmission of heritage with particular reference to the significant contributions of Naguib Mahfouz, Gamal Al Ghitani, Khairy Shalabi and Baha Taher. Folk traditions and Sufi heritage were also a focus of the presentations. Speakers included: Fekri Hassan and Caroline Rooney, Mohamed Shoair, Hussein Hamouda, Mahoud El Wardani, Mohammed Badawi, Ammar Ali Hassan, Salah El Rawi. The concluding panel featured novelists Salwa Bakr and Dohi Assey with former Minister of Culture Emad Abu Ghazi. The workshop was reported on in Al-Qahira newspaper and in the well-regarded literary journal Akhbar Al Adab. The event was followed the next day by the launch of a Naguib Mahfouz walking tour through the alleyways of historic Cairo off El Moez Street. A map of this walking tour was also launched.


Dragan Todorovic on BBC Radio 3’s The Verb

Dragan Todorovic, lecturer in Creative Writing, was a guest on BBC Radio 3 last week. He talked about his sound art and writing in general on The Verb, an esteemed show claiming to be “Radio 3’s cabaret of the word, featuring the best poetry, new writing and performance”. This episode was dedicated to the notion of place, and Dragan was joined by comedian Mark Thomas, poet Zoë Skoulding, composer Alexis Kirke and the host, poet Ian McMillan.

The podcast is available on BBC Radio 3 site, and you can get the episode here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08chbph

Dr Rory Loughnane is awarded the Faculty of Humanities Prize for Starting Research

This Faculty of Humanities Prize for Starting Research has been awarded to Dr Rory Loughnane (School of English) in recognition of his significant contribution to the landmark new critical edition of Shakespeare’s works, The New Oxford Shakespeare (Oxford University Press, 2016-17).

The New Oxford Shakespeare is the flagship publication of Oxford University Press (OUP) in 2016-17. Its publication was planned to coincide with the quatri-centennial anniversary of Shakespeare’s death; the first volume, the Modern Critical Edition, was published in October 2016.

The editing of Shakespeare is generally undertaken by the most senior scholars after a lifetime of teaching and research. Rory was hired as Associate Editor at the age of twenty-seven because of his publications on Shakespeare with field-leading journals and university presses. He was initially asked to undertake six plays for the edition, but he was then invited to edit an additional four plays (and co-edit another), while also co-authoring the ‘Canon and Chronology’ essay among other duties.

Although he has made this the centre of his work, Dr Loughnane also has an impressive profile outside the New Oxford Shakespeare project. In addition to the ten plays which he has edited, he has produced 4 edited collections (with a further 2 forthcoming), twenty substantial scholarly articles and chapters.

The New Oxford Shakespeare is a new multi-volume and multi-platform edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare. But it is also a research-led initiative to unearth new discoveries about the authorship, provenance, and transmission of Shakespeare’s works. As Associate Editor, Dr Loughnane was responsible for editing ten plays and co-editing another for the edition. Major canonical works that he edited include The Merchant of Venice, Henry V, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest. Dr Loughnane’s other work for the edition was primarily focused on issues related to authorship and attribution, considering which plays Shakespeare wrote and, in certain cases, with whom. With Prof. Gary Taylor, the senior general editor on the project, Dr Loughnane co-authored a book-length essay about ‘The Canon and Chronology of Shakespeare’s Works’. This essay was published in the edition’s Authorship Companion (2017). Dr Loughnane also undertook further original research about the co-authorship of All’s Well that Ends Well (in the Authorship Companion) and Titus Andronicus (in The Review of English Studies), among several other related studies.

Some of the edition’s new findings were marked during a two-day conference held at the University of Kent last November (co-organised with Prof. Catherine Richardson). This event drew significant media attention, including a televised BBC interview about the Canterbury-born poet Christopher Marlowe’s co-authorship of certain of Shakespeare’s early history plays. Work on the Alternative Versions volume of the New Oxford Shakespeare continues apace, and Dr Loughnane is currently completing a monograph and an essay collection about related research.

On receiving the award, Dr Loughnane made the following comment:

‘It was such a lovely surprise to win this research prize. There is so much outstanding research in the Humanities taking place here at Kent, and it is an honour to be part of this active scholarly community. In particular, I am very grateful for the support of the School of English and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS). I am also deeply indebted to the team of amazing scholars working on the New Oxford Shakespeare—it is a joy to see the edition in print at last.’

‘Breaking the Generations’, a film co-directed by Prof. Caroline Rooney, is featured on the Medical Aid for Palestinians website.

Caroline Rooney, Professor of African and Middle Eastern Studies in the School of English, has directed a film with William Parry entitled ‘Breaking the Generations: Palestinian Prisoners and Medical Rights’. The film has been screened at Holyrood and its North American premiere was at the 2016 Toronto Palestine Film Festival.

‘Breaking the Generations’ is a topical human rights documentary that explores how Israel’s widespread and systematic use of arrest and detention is a key tool of Israel’s military occupation and colonization, designed to crush resistance and to spread fear in individuals, families and communities. It examines this policy further by exploring what the consequences of this are for the health of Palestinian prisoners, who face widespread, institutionalized medical negligence inside Israeli prisons. It further raises the question of the complicity of the international community in this ongoing state of affairs. The film features interviews with Palestinian prisoners and their families and with leading humanitarian physicians and lawyers.

The film was made with the support of Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and Addameer, who have given the following statements:

“Protecting the human rights of prisoners and detainees in Israeli prisons, specifically their right to health and freedom from ill-treatment and torture is part of PHRI work in the last 29 years. The medical community in Israel plays an inevitable role, as Dr. Ruchama Marton, founder of PHR-I states “medicine and politics..they are inter-connected”. We believe that denial of these basic rights are a form of control and suppression of Palestinian society. Without concerned members of the international community speaking out on their behalf, such systematic violation of human rights violations will inevitably continue.” Physicians for Human Rights – Israel. 

“Addameer has been involved in this film and campaign because these issues are critical elements in the basic human rights of Palestinian prisoners and detainees, including over 700 Palestinian administrative detainees, held without charge or trial. It is crucial that concerned members of the international community speak out on their behalf and highlight Israel’s systematic violations of international human rights laws, including systematic detention without charge or trial, torture and ill treatment, and medical negligence inside Israeli prisons and detention centers.” Addameer

A link to the film can be found on the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) website. Viewers of the film who think that concerns raised by it are important are asked to write to their MPs (MAP has a letter that can be forwarded). The film and details of how to email your MP can be found here: https://www.map.org.uk/news/archive/post/466-call-to-action-ask-your-mp-to-support-access-to-healthcare-for-palestinian-prisoners

Dr Mike Collins on The Drama of the American Short Story

The second episode of the Research Podcast Series is a discussion of Mike Collins’s new book for University of Michigan Press, The Drama of the American Short Story, 1800 – 1865 with Dr. Lyons, Dr. Grattan and Dr. Norman in the School of English. Dr. Collins’s book is a new history of a major form of American writing, which seeks to draw links between the development of the short story and theatrical culture in the early USA. Tracking the development of the form alongside the resurgence of theatre and drama in the USA in the early republic and antebellum eras, Collins’s book suggests that, rather than being treated as a form that focuses on romantic alienation and epiphany, the short story in this period was a social form of writing that was heavily reliant on gesture, ritual and performance for its dominant meanings. The podcast discussion ranges widely around questions of the fate of New Historicism, the pleasures and pains of writing academic monographs, the politics of literary form, and, at one point, Dungeons and Dragons.

Shakespeare, Kent and Early Modern Drama Conference on 9th and 10th November at the University of Kent

Marking the quadricentennial anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this gathering celebrates the many connections found with the historic county of Kent in his works.

Connections to Kent are abundant in Shakespeare’s works. the Earl of Kent, banished yet still loyal to his King, is one of the most important characters in King Lear; Jack Cade, Kent-born and raised, launches his rebellion from the county in 2 Henry VI, where the commons are ‘up in arms’; a wealthy franklin from the area between the North and South Downs, prone to be the victim of highwaymen, is discussed 1 Henry IV; the Bastard character in King John reports that all of Kent but Dover Castle has surrendered to the invading French. Moreover, Shakespeare’s plays were performed on tour in Kent during his lifetime, while the first ever buyer of his Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies was a Kentish man, Edward Dering, who purchased two copies on 5 December 1623.

But Kent also has a wealth of wider connections to early modern drama. Canterbury is the hometown of John Lyly, Shakespeare’s predecessor as a leading dramatist in London, and Stephen Gosson, who first acted in stage plays before gaining notoriety as an anti-theatricalist. However, perhaps the most important connection to Kent is with the shadowy figure of Christopher Marlowe, who was born in Canterbury and a student of The King’s School within the city walls.

Topics for discussion include: locality and regionality; the cultural and literary resonance of Kent as location; authorship and attribution; the works of Marlowe, Lyly and Gosson; new directions for future research.

Speakers include:

Terri Bourus, Gabriel Egan, James Gibson, Brett Greatley-Hirsch, Andy Kesson, Una McIlvenna, Lucy Munro, Michael Neill and Leah Scragg, and there will be a plenary lecture by Gary Taylor on the Wednesday evening.

For more information, please contact Rory Loughnane and Catherine Richardson.




AHRC Research Grant Award for Lecturers in American Studies and English

Dr Sara Lyons and Dr Michael Collins, of the University of Kent’s School of English, have been awarded a £240,000 grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council for a project entitled Literary Culture, Meritocracy and the Assessment of Intelligence in Britain and America, 1880 1920.

The project investigates how British and American novelists understood, represented, and problematised the concept of human intelligence between 1880 and 1920. These forty years saw intense scientific debates about the mechanisms underlying biological heredity as well as the establishment of mass compulsory education systems in both Britain and America. The convergence of these developments galvanised a new drive to establish the fundamentally innate and measureable nature of mental ability. The rise of intelligence testing and the associated concept of IQ was highly controversial, but it nonetheless achieved a considerable scientific and cultural legitimacy in both countries, and encouraged a tendency to conceptualise intelligence in statistical terms, as a phenomenon that distributes itself predictably around a norm in a population.

This project compares how British and American novelists used the bildungsroman form –  the novel of education and personal development – to grapple with the implications of the new drive to render intelligence an objectively knowable phenomenon. What did it mean, and how did it feel, to be classified as being above, below, or of average intelligence, at a moment when such judgements began to lay claim to scientific authority? To what extent did novelists in the period endorse or contest the IQ model of intelligence, and what alternative ideas about the evaluation of intelligence can be discovered in the bildungsroman, a form with roots in Romantic theories of education? What is the relationship between new efforts to conceive of intelligence as a testable and unitary entity in the brain and the shift toward more experimental modes of literary representation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries?

The project will also enquire into how shifting ideas about the nature of mental ability affected the discourses of literary criticism and conceptions of authorial identity in the period of transition from the nineteenth-century realist novel to the experiments of modernism. What impact did the rise of the notion of IQ have upon modern ideas of talent, creativity, and aesthetic value?

Finally, the project will explore how literary culture in this period can both clarify and enrich our contemporary debates about competitive examinations, meritocracy, and genetic determinism.

The grant will allow Drs. Lyons and Collins to appoint a post-doctoral researcher, conduct public-engagement events, conferences, and work towards the publication of a monograph on the topic.

Dr Sara Lyons is a Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Kent; Dr Michael Collins is a Lecturer in American Literature and Deputy Director of the Centre for American Studies at the University of Kent.

Dickens Universe 2016: Dombey and Son, red-woods, deer, and friends

As happens with many things in life, I had heard wonders about Dickens Universe from former delegates, but you don’t really get an idea of what it is like until you experience it yourself. The setting couldn’t be any better: the campus of UC Santa Cruz is the kind of place you never want to leave; surrounded by red-woods, inhabited by squirrels and deer, and with some breath-taking views of the ocean. The human group making all this possible truly deserve a special mention: the people working and volunteering for The Dickens Project are not only welcoming and friendly, they also take care of every single detail so that all of us can feel at home for a very special week.

And it is actually the human component of Dickens Universe that makes all the difference– grad students, faculty, general public, the Friends of the Dickens Project, and especially the Director, Prof John Jordan aka “Master of the Universe”. It was precisely Prof Jordan (UC Santa Cruz) who mentioned in his welcoming message the very special and unique essence of Dickens Universe: an academic event which also features characteristics that one might more usually expect to find in a book-club and a summer-camp. The secret ingredient for getting so many different people together for a week? A Dickens novel.

Dickens Universe 2016 turned around Dombey and Son, which was published serially between 1846 and 1848. A truly enjoyable novel, wittingly written, and covering a wide range of key Victorian issues which were, of course, reflected upon by the excellent keynotes. On this occasion, I had the pleasure to be Kent’s representative and was accompanied by faculty Dr Declan Kavanagh, Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Director of the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Writing at Kent’s School of English.

This year’s programme was quite full and featured a great variety of activities, all of them interesting and appealing. On a strictly academic level, there were the faculty-led seminars both for the general public, and for grad students, keynotes in the morning and evening, afternoon lectures, and the different “jobs” carried out by the grad students. The latter included workshops on publication, active listening, pedagogy, writing, presentation, and the possibility of team-teaching with another grad student, which was my choice. These teaching sessions were aimed at the general public and involved close-reading and discussion of especially relevant passages. I can’t truly explain how much I enjoyed this! My teaching partner was a Masters student from San Francisco State University and together we led daily sessions for a group of eleven participants. Some of them were first-timers like us, some others had been attending Dickens Universe for several years. It was clear from the beginning that we would all learn from each other.

As regards the key-notes, I would say Dickens Universe also stands out for bringing together so many excellent, international renowned academics to deliver lectures. The talks were delivered from very different critical perspectives, all extremely relevant to current research in Humanities. To name but a few, Andrew H. Miller (Johns Hopkins) started off with a linguistic approach, John Jordan delivered an inspiring talk on “Openings” as a recurrent structural motif within the novel, Elisha Cohn (Cornell) drew on Animal Humanities, Peter Capuano (Nebraska, Lincoln) applied his research on Digital Humanities and disability to his reading of the novel, Claire Jarvis (Stanford) beautifully revisited her reading of the novel after motherhood, Ryan Fong (Kalamazoo College) analysed the many implications of the sea in the novel, and Robyn Warhol (Ohio State) presented “Reading Like A Victorian”, a digital resource that aims at replicating the serial experience, and which I will definitely be mentioning to my students!

The opportunity for networking and getting to know other participants came with the more relaxed activities: the welcoming dinner, Victorian tea offered every afternoon by the Friends of the Dickens Project, Post-Prandial Potations (PPT) consisting of drinks before the evening lectures and organised by the so-called Cruise Directors to whom we owe so many good moments, yoga lessons, rehearsals for different events, the Grand Party also hosted by the Friends of the Dickens Project, the Fundraising Auction, the Victorian Dance, and the Dickensian parties held every night!

As I said at the beginning this is truly a once-in-a-life experience for a PhD student both at a professional and a personal level. I’m still missing everyone so badly! All the very best to next year’s candidate who will have, I am sure, at least as great a time as I did.

Raquel Garcia-Cuevas Garcia

Una McIlvenna’s article reaches international readership

Una McIlvenna (Lecturer in Early Modern Literature in the School of English) recently published the article ‘French kissing to lesbian orgies: the origins of the myth of the debauched French court’ for the online international magazine The Conversation. Since its publication earlier this month it has been viewed over 50,000 times and translated into French. The article poses the question where the ‘stereotype of the French court as debauched and dangerous’ came from and considers the historical origins of this enduring myth. You can read Una’s article on The Conversation’s Arts and Culture section.

Following the success of the article, Una was interviewed for the Irish national radio station Newstalk, on their daily afternoon show Moncrieff. You can listen to the podcast here: http://www.newstalk.com/podcasts/Moncrieff/Highlights_from_Moncrieff/150847/The_origins_of_French_Debauchery